History Of Tea

More tea is consumed around the world than any beverage except water.  The history of tea dates back to around 3000 BC. In prehistoric China tea was probably used as a relish and as a medicine. Tea was also popular for stimulation.

A Necessity

Tea drinking, and commercial cultivation, spread during the T’ang Dynasty, 618–907, especially after a Buddhist monk, Lu Yu, wrote a book on the virtues of tea, Ch’a Ching. Tea gradually became one of the seven basic necessities of Chinese life. (The others are fuel, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar.) Tea was introduced to Japan by a Zen Buddhist.

Tea Goes Around the World

Dutch explorers became acquainted with tea in the 1590s and were soon importing tea to Europe. In 1657 the British East India Company held the first public sale of tea in England. Gradually, the British fell in love with tea, and with the sugar that went in it. In 1665, less than 88 tons of sugar was imported to Great Britain. By 1700, it had increased to 10,000 tons of sugar.

Tea Loses Favor in Boston

British tea policy also encouraged the American Revolution. Protests over the tax on tea and other products, led to the Boston Massacre, (1770) and the Boston Tea Party (1773). It had become unpatriotic for Americans to drink tea. And while tea has since made a comeback, it still holds a second place to coffee in the United States.

Cadbury, Pierce, and Harrod All Start with Tea

A number of famous retailers got their start in the tea business. In 1824 John Cadbury opened a tea and coffee shop in Birmingham, England, which grew into the Cadbury Chocolate Co. In 1849, London tea wholesaler Henry Charles Harrod took over a shop that would soon bear his name and become one of the world’s most famous department stores.

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A Hot Day and Muslin Bags

Iced tea was first reported at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Richard Blechynden had planned to sell hot tea at this stand, but became concerned that no one would want to drink hot tea on a sweltering day. He began offering the tea with ice cubes and the new drink was a sensation. However, there is evidence that others had thought of iced tea had earlier.

In 1909, New York merchant Thomas Sullivan sent some tea samples sewn muslin bags to potential customers. Finding they could brew the tea simply by pouring hot water over the bags, the customers clamored for more, and the tea bag was born.

Major Tea Producers

Today, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Indonesia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe are all major tea exporters. Ireland has the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, four cups per person per day, while the United States consumes less than one cup per person per day.

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